Kerstin Broockmann and Maggie Speer’s clean, naturalistic staging lives up to the many challenges of Sam Shepard’s dark, dense epic of American denial and rage. In one of his finest, most thorough works, the playwright known for his almost surreal depiction of American dysfunction takes us into the painfully intimate heart of the relationship between a husband and wife whose desperate love continues even when Jake has beaten Beth to the point of brain damage. Using this as his setup, Shepard delves into both families’ histories of sick and abusive behavior. He knows his characters and their world so well that even when the play verges on the outrageous, one still believes the characters’ pain is utterly real.

It would be easy to imagine this drama turning into melodrama in less capable hands. The strong cast (including Speer as Jake’s mother, Lorraine) work beautifully as an ensemble–absolutely essential to maintaining the truth of Shepard’s world. Lovely to watch is Lynne Hall as Meg, Beth’s fragile, silently strong mother. Hall’s earnest portrayal of a woman who sees her husband’s hypocrisy yet remains with him embodies the paradox of these eerily familiar characters.

I’d like to say thanks and good-bye to my editors, the Reader staff, and my readers as I depart Chicago to begin my studies as a rabbinical student. –Gabrielle S. Kaplan


Azusa Productions,

at TinFish Theatre.